Over 600 children and 1,000 volunteers participated in this year’s For the Kids (FTK) program held last January 19 at the Cory Aquino Democratic Space. Spearheaded by the Center for Social Concern and Action (COSCA), children with special needs aged five to 12 years old from various Special Education centers in Metro Manila were partnered with Ate-Kuya Volunteers (AKV) from the DLSU community and other Lasallian schools.
The much-anticipated events of the program include a special mini-Olympics that featured games such as bowling, basketball, football, ball pit, maze, pasabit, and relay. The DLSU Animo Squad, La Salle Dance Company-Folk, La Salle Dance Company-Contemporary, La Salle Dance Company-Street, and De La Salle Innersoul delivered performances for the participants, while external performers Bae Si Clown gave a special magic and bubble show.
A growing social engagement
Project heads Teemee Lapuz and Jeanne Fernandez warmly shared how FTK has grown since its inception in 1984. “Kung this year, meron kaming 500 to 600 kids, nung first FTK meron [lang] kaming 30 kids… [and] from one center, naging 34 centers na sila this year,” Fernandez explained.
(This year, we had 500 to 600 kids. During the first FTK, we [only] had 30 kids…[and] from one center, it grew to 34 centers this year.)
Lapuz narrated with pride how FTK had continuously improved from prior years. “First, marami kaming games na nadagdag this FTK, and then second, meron kaming two centers (Sta. Ana Elementary School and Wishful Angel Community Support Group for Inclusive Education) na nag-perform [onstage],” she stated.
(We added a lot of games this FTK, and two centers rendered a performance onstage.)
A donation drive was also organized this year for refugees from towns in Batangas affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano earlier this January. A booth was set up to collect in-kind donations such as old toys to be shared with other kids in need. Donors were also given the option to use their Beep cards to donate, with one tap equalling a P5 contribution.
A fulfilling experience
Volunteers Nathalie Dela Rosa (BS-ECED, ‘16) and Ben Espiritu (BSA, ‘16), who have consistently joined FTK since 2015, shared that more than just providing entertainment for the children, FTK has also become a humanizing experience. “I joined FTK so I can be experienced in interacting with kids—not just regular kids, but kids you have to give special care to,” Espiritu shared.
Ella*, their assigned child, is an eight-year-old girl with Down syndrome. Dela Rosa said that Ella is “very active and loves exploring”.
“It is tiring, but you will learn a lot,” Espiritu said.
In the same way, Lapuz and Fernandez relayed that their overall experience was fulfilling. “Hindi naman mawawala yung pagod, pero at the same time, fulfilling siya knowing na napasaya yung mga kids,” Lapuz narrated.
(It is always tiring, but at the same time, it’s fulfilling to see these kids happy.)
For Fernandez, planning FTK for the longest time, witnessing it come to life, and seeing the kids form a bond with their AKVs and give them a deeply enjoyable experience even just for a day is what FTK is all about. “Nakita mo na ‘yung mga smiles ng kids, kahit na hindi nila kilala yung AKV nila na whole day nila nakakasama, pero ang laki na ng bond na nafo-form nila with that,” she said.
(You see that the kids are happy even if they don’t know who their AKVs were, even if they had spent a whole day with them. But they nonetheless form a really strong bond with that.)
*Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms.